Wednesday, January 29, 2014

You Are Engaged - What's Next?

What comes first - determining the budget, or the setting the date, finding a venue, etc,? 

Set an approximate sum for your budget and then use the following percentages to determine the total available for each category. 
The average amount spent on a wedding in 2012 was close to $27,000    
           Reception                               50%
           Music                                     10%
           Flowers                                   10%
           Wedding Attire                       10%
           Photography                           10%
           Stationary                                 4%
           Extras – at least                       6%  

But…..the 50% figure is based on having your reception catered.   If you need to trim the budget the reception is a good place to start.

Date/Venue/Food/Time of Day  

Changes in any of these areas can make an impact on your budget.

Venues come in all varieties and sizes.  
The internet has increased the visibility of suitable locations and if you live in or near a large metropolitan area you will probably be amazed at what is available. Venues might have natural decor, a view or even an architectural feature, which could reduce the time, energy and money needed to create the environment you want for the occasion.

On-line Keyword Search Terms

Rental Halls, Reception Halls, Banquet Halls,Party Rooms, Party Halls, Cheap Rental Halls, Reception Sites

Additional Resource

  •      Call all the local Fraternal Organizations:  the Elks Club, Shrine Temple etc. 
  •      Check with your City and/or Country Parks Department regarding facilities available for rent 
  •      Also check with your local Recreation department.
  •      Check with alumni clubs.
  •      Botanical Gardens
  •      Museums
  •      Art Galleries
  •      Historic Estates
  •      Vineyards and Wineries
  •      Bed and Breakfast Inns
  •      Ranches (Rustic weddings have been very popular the last several years)
  •      Penthouse suites in the larger cities

Quasi-Destination Wedding 

The glamour of a location away from home, but without the price of plane tickets.  I lived a short distance from Lake Tahoe and several of my clients rented large vacation homes to use for the ceremony and reception. The lake provided a lovely backdrop for the weddings, the receptions were set-up on the lawns and decks of the homes, plus; there were a large number of bedrooms for family members' use.  The out-of-town guests enjoyed their visit because there were many local attractions for them to enjoy.  Check with your local Realtor for any large local properties that might be available for rent for a long week-end.

 Or, consider having it at home if your guest list is not too extensive.   I will be writing about setting up mini-buffets in confined spaces is an ideal way to handle a large number of guests in a private home.

Most restaurants, country clubs etc.with banquet facilities did not allow outside food and beverages to be brought in.  However, I see that many venues that could not afford to advertise in the yellow pages previously now have an on-line visibility and do allow outside food and beverages to be brought in.  The down-turn in the economy has forced a change in the way some businesses function, which can be to your advantage.

One Important Aspect of Renting Any Type of Location for a DIY Event is the Amount of Time Available For Your Function.   

  • Plan for at least 2 hours for the preparation and set-up of the bar and food for 100 guests. Either additional help, or time, will be needed for set-up and decoration of the room and guest tables.  
  • Allow for at least 1 hour for clean up at the conclusion of your event.  
  • To determine your time schedule begin at the end and move backwards through the various 
    • clean-up
    • bouquet and garter toss and bridal couple leaving 
    • dancing
    • "first dances"
    • cake cutting
    • toasts
    • meal
    • bride and groom arrival
    • guests arrival
    • room and food set-up  
Another is The Kitchen.  Is there a stove(s) with an oven, a refrigerator and plenty of counter space?  
         If you know what is available at the venue when you are planning the menu it will help when selecting menu items, and then planning and organizing how it is going to come together.

Make a list of the various areas that might be required.
         Table for gifts and cards (place slightly away from the main entrance to the room)
         Areas for non-alcoholic drinks, beer/wine or bar (separate areas for a large crowd)
         DJ table, speakers
         Dance floor
         Head table or Bride and Groom table
         Guest tables and chairs
         Cake table - your guests will want to see you when you cut the cake and you will want a nice
         backdrop behind the cake for your pictures.
         Table for guest book or other memorabilia etc.
         Table for escort cards
         Children's Table
         Photo booth 
  Here is a great tool from weddingwire which allows you to create a floor plan and seating charts.


Should I plan a full meal, or just appetizers? 

Dinner Buffet 

This question involves many deciding factors – food preferences, time of day, resources and more.  Due to the variety of factors an evaluation is included in the book that helps you define which option will work best for you.  Two things to bear in mind is that appetizers are much more labor intensive, and due to the ingredients -usually cost more per person than a full meal offering multiple salad options, pasta or potatoes, 2 or more meat selections and rolls.

And because we are talking about a DIY reception a buffet is the most effective way to serve the food.   However, if you decide to have your event catered this information could still be useful.

Appetizer Buffet (photo by

  Notice the difference in the how the food is presented in the dinner buffet and appetizer pictures.  The individual piece presentation increases the set-up time dramatically.  And an extensive menu of such items will require significant additional help on the day of the event.

How does the time of day and season affect the plans?

The time of day will determine the type of food you serve; the most economical meals are brunch, lunch and  dinner.  If your budget is very very tight you could consider a later afternoon reception and serve a few nipples with a beverage before you cut the cake.  
Breakfast Brunch

If you have a late morning wedding the breakfast brunch requires the least preparation in the days prior to the wedding, is very economical and requires the least amount of time to set-up.

The season will affect several things.

One of the most important is the weather. If you have a summer wedding, obviously you can plan for your guests to 
go outdoors.  If your venue has a roof we find it best to plan for each person to sit 
inside and then provide additional seating outside.  If space constraints won’t allow for this make sure that the DJ is aware of this so he can include the 
outside guests in the various activities.  The other seasonal consideration
will be the fresh fruit and vegetables that are more abundant during certain periods of the year. 

 A winter wedding provides an opportunity to serve seasonal favorites (hot chocolate with snapps - yum) and decorate with a holiday themes if desired.

It is very popular to plan weddings for long holiday week-ends providing more time for out-of-town guests to travel.  If this is your plan book your venue A.S.A.P.!

Formality of the Reception 

I am not even going to put "how does" in front of this.  If your reception venue is decorated with crystals, opulent flower arrangements and an elaborate dinner service you might not be serving BBQ,   But my clients found that their guests just appreciated good food, regardless of what it was.  A buffet that is arranged attractively with a few varieties of each menu item will be welcomed by your guests.  And if you offer a unique item or two me they will rave about it.

How does the location of the reception facility affect our plans? 

  • If the ceremony and reception are not in close proximity of each other, you will need to consider the travel time for the guests to reach the reception venue after they leave the church.  
  • Consider the interval of time the guests will be at the reception while the bride, groom and family members are being photographed.  
  • Beverages should be available when the first guest walks through the door of the reception facility.  
  • It is a good idea to have simple snacks or appetizers available during this period of time if there is more than an hour delay before the bride and groom arrive.   

A Game Plan for Finalizing the Venue

    Set an approximate budget figure.

    Look at a date for your wedding.
    Pick several dates that would be acceptable and check availability of wedding facility & officiant
    Make a rough estimate of the number of guests who will be invited.
    Select several venues which can accommodate your party  and then find which ones have your 
    dates available.  
    Compare prices.   The reception is going to need a large portion of the budget.  By getting a feel       for the cost of reception you will have the information needed to help make future decisions
    regarding where you spend your budget dollars. 
    Verify that your approximate guest count can be accommodated by the venue. 
    Once you have a list of available options, select the venue you prefer and book your date as soon     as you have finalized your budget.  
     If you plan on providing your own food and beverage verify that this is included in the contract prior to signing.   

      The rental hall might look bleak when you go to see it.  But, with all the DIY decorating ideas on Pinterest and the various wedding sites, the possibilities for transformation are endless.

    How Far In Advance Should I Rent the Facility?


    Seriously, finding an available facility for the day you want could be the biggest challenge you will face.  So, this is your first priority.  My clients actually stood in line on the day that reservations were opened for the new year to book their receptions for several of the city park facilities .  

    Frugally Fabulous Wedding Receptions was written after years of helping clients save thousands by self-catering their receptions.  It is a step-by-step tool kit for planning a DIY reception that you can have at your finger tips as you go through the planning process.  The book is available for immediate shipping at for $16.95  

     Win a free copy of Frugally Fabulous Wedding Receptions and a complimentary consulting package from Frugally Fabulous.. details will be published in the February 1st blog.


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